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Today is Veterans’ Day, what was once called Armistice Day, remembering the treaty between Allies of WWI and the Germans that ended the fighting on the Western Front at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 . It is the day our country has chosen to memorialize, honor, and thank our men and women in service, either currently enlisted or veterans. My Daddy is my very favorite veteran; he and his three oldest brothers all served in World War II.

My favorite veteran:  Donald Lewis Pender, USN.

My favorite veteran: Donald Lewis Pender, USN.

At Olive Garden Restaurants, Veterans’ Day is a big deal. We honor our Vets all day with a complimentary meal, as well as discounts for family members accompanying them. Since I’m the “new kid on the block” today was my first Olive Garden Veterans’ Day. I had been told that our guest numbers on this day rival Valentine’s Day, and to get lots of sleep last night!

What a delightful day! Our service people and their families — without exception — were charming and appreciative. From the newest recruits to the most elderly, they were a pleasure to visit with and serve. Even when their wait time was considerable, they were gracious. Any number of them made a point to compliment their servers, as well as their meals. I recognized a group of Patriot Guard riders from seeing them at other events. And one adorable little girl came in for dinner accompanied by her mommy and daddy who are both currently serving. What shining examples of patriotism she has!

(Perhaps the highlight of my day was as I was holding the front door open and a guest on his way out said, “Let me get that door for you, young lady!” I told him that was the first time I had been called “young lady” in quite a while, and he answered that no matter how old I was, I was a lady and he was still a gentleman. He was a sweetheart, for sure.

It was such a treat for me to be able to explain to guests after seating them that the veteran could choose any entrée on the special menu “on the house”, with our thanks, and that their family members’ meals would be discounted, as well. Of course it in no way mirrors the sacrifices they have made for the rest of us, but at least we had the opportunity to say “thanks”.

And to all our veterans, those currently serving, and their families: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know freedom isn’t free, and I appreciate how you have cared for us.